Monday 7 April 2008

Birmingham to Boston Conclusion

Reference Books used during trip

Nicholson - Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the North East

The Trent Chart Series:

No. 1 : Non Tidal, Nottingham to Cromwell

No. 2 : Tidal Trent, Cromwell to Trent Falls
Available at Sawley Marina

Ripon Motor Boat Club - Cruising Guide to the North East Eastern Waterways

Pearson - Stourport and Black Country Rings plus the BCN

The Trent Chart series are an absolute must and a No3 exists for the
Yorkshire Ouse if you venture beyond Trent falls.

Special requirements for the tidal reaches:
  1. Anchor with chain and rope available to hand (at stern if possible)
  2. VHF radio to contact locks and monitor commercial traffic movements
  3. Fully charged Mobile Phone
  4. Life Jackets for all crew
  5. Life ring close to hand
  6. Navigation Lights for times of poor visibility
  7. Up to date maps / charts
  8. 100% reliable engine

Sunday 6 April 2008

Tixall to Calf Heath

Sunday 6 April 2008
Tixall to Calf Heath Day 17
Staffs and Worcester Canal

Miles 13
Locks 12
Hours 6

As this section is very familiar there shouldn’t be much to say about the last day but as it turned out the trip saved the best till last.

The Capt woke with the dawn at 6.30 am and was puzzled by the strange quality of the light which permeated the saloon. One peek through the curtains revealed a dazzling winter wonderland with the last and heaviest snowfall of the season covering everything in four inches of crispy snow.

Not only had it snowed but the sky had cleared immediately afterwards crystallising everything with a deep frost. This presented a fantastic photo opportunity so Ahab dragged on a fleece and lined trousers and dived outside armed with his new digital camera and shot over 150 photos around the Wide and the lock. The sight of colourful narrowboats burdened with a rich layer of snow and sporting wisps of wood smoke was magical.

By the time The Capt returned to WB the rest of the crew had emerged and proceeded to engage in a snowball fight along the towpath, to the bemusement of the adjacent narrowboat.

Bagman cooked up one of his legendary breakfasts and we set off through the mist covered water and the picture postcard loveliness of Cannock Chase in winter. The snow was never destined to last this late in the year but enough lasted to allow the children of [ ] to enjoy sledging down the hills which run beside the canal on its approach to Stafford Boat Club.
Bagman and Little S left us at the Moat House in Acton Trusell bound for lunch with friends leaving Tilly and Ahab to complete the last four hours back to Calf Heath on out own.

Saturday 5 April 2008

Burton on Trent to Tixall

Saturday 5 April 2008
Burton on Trent to Tixall Day 16
Trent and Mersey Canal

Miles 22

Locks 15
Hours 10

Another 9.00 am start in spitting rain. We rapidly caught up
with a couple of slow moving hire boats, which obligingly let us past.

The increase in traffic resulted in a few minutes delay entering the Alrewas river section and again at Fradley, but nothing of note.

The weather deteriorated into rain, sleet and snow as we passed Armitage and Rugely, clearing as we approached Great Haywood. We passed a single hander en route to Llangollen at Armitage, accompanied by a tiny scampering dog which will spend the entire trip rushing up and down the towpath.

We had an enforced crew change at Great Haywood with Jeff departing at the Anglo Welsh base at Great Haywood, being replaced by Tilly allowing Jeff to attend his friends baptism in Sutton Coldfield.

We finished the day mooring just beyond Tixall Wide on the Staffs and Worcester, immediately below Tixall Lock with just the owls, bats and geese for company. During the day we had struggled to power Bagman’s chunky laptop from our very small inverter as it refused to both recharge and run the DVD simultaneously. By the evening we overcame its limitations by effecting a full charge whilst in standby in advance. In this way we were able to settle down to an evenings entertainment beside the roaring log burner. Sleeping arrangements were varied so the two girls shared the double bed and Bagman and Capt Ahab used the saloon with the bunks configuration up front.

Friday 4 April 2008

Sandiacre to Burton on Trent

Friday 4 April 2008
Sandiacre to Burton on Trent Day 15
Erewash Canal, River Trent and Trent and Mersey

Miles 24

Locks 11
Hours 10

We woke when the shunting engines in Toton Sidings really got into their stride and the percussion of colliding wagons could not only be heard but also felt through the water. We were on the go by 9.00am, passing through Long Eaton with care.

There was loads of rubbish and several ominous bangs from the base plate, but fortunately nothing serious round the prop. We couldn’t resist swerving close to the Sea Scouts premises to activate their automated warning signal and receive a stern warning to “vacate the area”. It must be a real pain to live near but it gave us a good chuckle.

We planned to stop and fill up with water at Trent Lock, not having seen a tap for 3 days. However, a big Dutch Barge was filling some exceptionally large tanks so we pressed on. We tried the tap opposite Sawley Marina but this had ridiculously low pressure and after 45 mins and a half full tank we gave up again. The marina diesel pump mad no pressure problems and pushed 120 litres into our tank in no time at all. At this point we realised that the two day push up the flooded Trent had consumed the equivalent of a whole weeks worth of Diesel. No wonder the Cromwell Lock Keeper commented on the quantity of diesel we must have used! We also availed them of their £10 DIY pump out service, which was also becoming a pressing need.

Finally, we started to encounter other boats in volume, with the usual hoards of Canal time craft coming and going from their Shardlow base.
It was good to be back in the main canal system and we pressed on up the Trent and Mersey and through Stenson Lock behind a very old and smoky working boat. Bagman and little S were picked up at Willington before mooring at bridge 33 in Burton on Trent, just beyond Shobnall Fields.

Thursday 3 April 2008

Ilkeston to Sandiacre

Thursday 3 April 2008
Ilkeston to Sandiacre (via Langley Mill) Day 14
Erewash Canal

Miles 21

Locks 29
Hours 7

Belle had reservations about completing the Erewash, tending to favour a late start and an early return to Sandiacre. However, with a day in hand, and the canal “being there” we concluded “why not?”. We allocated three hours travel above Ilkeston and then to turn, covering as much distance as we had time for and still be ready for a pick up at 6.00pm. According to Pearson, the journey to Langley Mill was 4.5 hours so no chance of making it all the way.

In the event, Pearson was somewhat pessimistic and we made good time in spite of all the locks being set against us. The final plan was to wind a couple of hundred yards short of Langley Lock but a BW improvement scheme put paid to that idea. A couple of guys were working down the Erewash applying new numbers to all the bridges and their boat and scaffold blocked out way for half an hour or so. Then the leaking Eastwood Lock appeared to have virtually drained the pound to Langley Lock and even WB’s modest 1ft 10” draft wouldn’t make it.

However we locked up and turned in the mouth of the by-wash churning up tons of silt in the process. So that was the Erewash, bar about the last half mile or so – and in the circumstances that was good enough. On the way back we encountered the repairmen again at Shipley Lock and after a bit of persuasion, got them to agree to let us pass.

I have to say that the Erewash is not a great canal. The last couple of miles north of Cotmanhay are very rural, nestling in the foothills of the Peak District and hint at the potential which exists should this arm be reconnected with the Cromford Canal via the Amber Valley, a route which was lost in the 1960’s. Strangely, the canal is much more attractive when travelled in a southerly direction and the views of Cloud House and its adjacent church are picture postcard perfect.

The locks are big, heavy and the gear is at best stiff and at timed inoperable. The good news was that as we were the only craft on the canal all the locks were set in our favour for our decent! We made it to the Red Lion with 30 mins to spare and then Jeff and the Capt moved on through Sandiacre, mooring on the lock tail bollards.

Fishing was unsuccessful so we resorted to a Monopoly marathon. The Capt took a commanding lead with hotels on Brown, Blue, Purple, Orange, Yellow and Park Lane / Mayfair – enough to land me with a hotel repair bill of an eye watering £1650. But Jeff clung on with no property and virtually no cash, refusing to die but never quite cutting it as the comeback kid.

There was lots of activity around us during the evening but all of it on the towpath with dozens of runners and cyclists. The waterway itself feels like a throwback to the 1960’s, overgrown, unkempt and unloved by all but the fitness enthusiasts who use is environs as part of their exercise routine. The canal is almost continuous suburbia but whereas in some areas the canals are embraced and included into gardens, here it is shunned and hidden away behind high fences. As a result the debris is constant and every bit as bad as the BCN.

We had a quiet night with the distant hum of the A52 all but drowned out by the tinkling of the bywash. During the night various clanks and bangs emanated from the adjacent marshaling yard, but not badly enough to disturb our sleep.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Nottingham to Ilkeston

Wednesday 2 April 2008
Nottingham to Ilkeston Day 13
Nottingham Canal, River Trent and Erewash Canal

Miles 16
Locks 9

Hours 6

How lovely to be back in the cosy world of canals, no current and little more than 3 ft of water if disaster strikes. But this does not last for long as the Nottingham Canal is short and quickly becomes the Beeston Cut leading the Beeston Lock and a return to the raging Trent.

The current was still strong but the depth has reduced to “only just amber” and we seemed to be through the worst. We did as the sign suggested and “Proceeded with caution”. Judging by the debris on the banks the levels bust have peaked in the red zone whilst we were working our way up the tidal section - just our luck after a remarkably dry and flood free winter.

The currents really picked up in the shallow reaches below Cranfleet Cut and we were relived to take temporary leave of the river. The bad weather in the Fens had left with more time than anticipated so we decided to use two days to explore the Erewash Canal which leaves the Trent at Trent Lock, opposite the confluence of the Trent and the Soar.

The Erewash won’t win any awards for its loveliness. Whilst the locks are broad the channel is narrow in the extreme and in places it suffers from a bottom which is far too close to the surface… Weeds line most of the route, liberally sprinkled with all manner of plastic waste and industrial debris. Added to all this, the lock gear is poorly maintained and many reaches are uncannily similar the more desolate parts of the BCN.

We hit real trouble in Long Eaton as we passed some school playing fields. One of the goal nets had found its way into the cut and then into a tightly wound ball round our prop. This took an hour and a half to clear using a selection of implements including a serrated kitchen knife. This represents out all time worst trip down the weed hatch. Long Eaton morphed into Sandiacre which was a pleasant town and we settled on the Red Lion as a suitable drop off point for Sal the next day, from where she would return home by car, picking up Tilly from school along the way. We pressed on beyond Sandiacre with its converted lace mills and ducked under the roaring A52, which roars overhead.

We finally reached what could pass as countryside only to be confronted by the M1 and another ear splitting cacophony. The cut became narrower and shallower and our progress stirred up masses on noxious filth, even in the centre. We eventually identified a short length of new piling by a park at Gallows Inn Lock, which had just enough depth to bring Wand’ring bark alongside. This proved to be a surprisingly good mooring all things considered – one to remember for the future.

Tuesday 1 April 2008

Newark to Nottingham

Tuesday 1 April 2008
Newark to Nottingham Day 12
River Trent and Nottingham Canal

Miles 23
Locks 7
Hours 9

We set off at 9.30 am with the crew of Verity still
dead to the world. It was a grey and blustery day which called for waterproofs from the off.

The Town Lock Locky was at his post promptly and advised that the fresh had fallen overnight, down from 3.5m to 3.0m – but 9 ft of fresh is still a lot of flood-water surging over Newark Weir. Our progress up the Newark cut was misleadingly swift with kilometre boards passing every 8 minutes.

This quickly slowed to 12 mins per km as we joined the main river and, on occasion dropped to over 15 mins as we negotiated the narrow bends at Stoke Hall. With so little traffic on the river each lock keeper called ahead and to warn of our arrival and each lock greeted us with a green light and a cheery wave. All the way up the massage was the same. There was virtually no traffic on the water and only 3 boats passed through the locks – and we were the only ones heading upstream. Maybe there was a message in that!
It proved to be a long and lonely day with a mix of heavy rain
, sun and an ever present howling wind which caused the cratch cover to billow and flap but amazing never break free.

It was a relief to approach Nottingham and finally pick up another narrowboat just above Holme Lock, sailing in formation for the last two miles.

We locked onto the Nottingham Canal at 6.00pm in the gathering gloom and called it a day at Castle Marina, just beyond Sainsburys. This spot is much quieter than the official visitor moorings at the rear of Sainsburys, which are blighted by excessive road noise.